The Close Brothers Mares' Hurdle, registered as the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle, is open to fillies and mares only.
It commemorates 'the Duke' David Nicholson, who won four races at the Festival as a jockey and 17 as a trainer.
Only established in 2008, the race quickly made history with legendary mare Quevega winning it six times in a row from 2009 to 2014.
It has undoubtedly been a success, with other high-class winners such as Apple's Jade, Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle.
MARES’ HURDLE TRENDS
Willie Mullins used to dominate this race, albeit Quevega represented six of his nine wins, but he's saddled the beaten favourite in four of the last five renewals (three odds-on).
In fact, four odds-on shots were defeated in succession from 2018, starting with the Gordon Elliott trained Apple's Jade at 1/2.
Meanwhile, a runner priced 16/1 or bigger has finished in the first three of the Mares' Hurdle in 14 of the 16 renewals.
That has included 18/1 and 20/1 winners, plus placed horses at 33/1 (twice), 40/1 (twice), 50/1 and 66/1 (twice).
Of the eight winning Mares' Hurdle favourites to date, six were Quevega.
Stamina seems to be the key prerequisite, with all but the very first winner having already won over this trip or further.
MARES’ HURDLE ODDS
LAST 5 WINNERS’ DATA
In 2023, the two-time Champion Hurdle winner Honeysuckle secured her fourth victory in succession at the Festival, in the race in which she first made her name.
The legendary mare needed to dig deep on her swansong, after losing some momentum at the final hurdle having got in tight.
There were emotionally charged scenes in and around the winner's enclosure, following the tragic death of trainer Henry de Bromhead's son Jack the previous September:
The Nicky Henderson trained Marie's Rock won the 2022 Mares' Hurdle, which featured five previous Cheltenham Festival winners.
Owned by the Middleham Park Racing syndicate, she was ridden to a length and three-quarters victory by Nico de Boinville:
The 2021 Close Brothers Mares' winner was Black Tears to give trainer Denise Foster her first Festival winner.
Jack Kennedy produced the 11/1 shot with a perfectly-timed challenge to deny the favourite Concertista in a thrilling finish:
Honeysuckle won an epic duel with Benie Des Dieux in 2020, having looked at the mercy of the odds-on favourite in the hands of a motionless Paul Townend racing down the hill.
But Rachael Blackmore nipped up the inside on her mount to steal an advantage on the final bend and they held on for a half-length victory:
There was huge drama in 2019, with Benie Des Dieux falling at the last when cruising to back-to-back victories, leaving Harry Skelton to pick up the pieces aboard Roksana.
The fall was eerily reminiscent of Annie Power's at the same hurdle in this race four years earlier - both ridden by Ruby Walsh and sporting the pink and green silks of Rich Ricci:
Benie Des Dieux had lowered the colours of reigning champion Apple's Jade in 2018.
She was running over hurdles for the first time since November 2015, but the switch back to smaller obstacles paid off under Ruby Walsh:
Apple’s Jade had fended off the Willie Mullin's pair of Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini in 2017.
She had also been trained by Mullins the previous season, but owner Michael O’Leary moved all of his horses from that yard after a disagreement over training fees.
Now with Gordon Elliott, it looked like she had it all to do once Vroum Vroum Mag edged ahead after the final flight, at which point Limini made a costly error:
Vroum Vroum Mag 2016
The 2015 renewal will always be remembered for Annie Power's infamous final flight fall.
Willie Mullins had sent out three winners on the day and bookies were facing huge liabilities on accumulator bets on his four favourites.
Estimated to have saved the bookmaking industry over £50 million, it was thus called "the single most expensive fall in National Hunt history" for punters.
Her stablemate Glens Melody saw off Polly Peachum in front of a near silent grandstand:
Quevega created history by winning the Mares' Hurdle for a sixth successive year in 2014 - becoming the the winning-most horse ever at the Cheltenham Festival.
She passed Golden Miller's mark of five Cheltenham Gold Cup wins in the 1930s.
But Willie Mullins' mare was made to work hard by stablemate Glens Melody, only getting her head in front in the final 100 yards:
Quevega also had to dig deep to secure her fifth Mares' Hurdle in 2013, after almost being knocked over at the top of the hill in the hands of Ruby Walsh:
She won her first Mares' Hurdle back in 2009: